There should be an overwhelming sense of relief.
Jacinda Ardern has done the right thing by herself, her family and finally the people of New Zealand.
In just over a year, we have witnessed the disintegration of a leader whose 2020 tenure of absolute electoral driven power started with overwhelming public support, gratitude and reverence but descended into a myopic and confused authoritarian rule. We have graphically endured a lesson of incoherent government and state overreach which has been on a march of portentous marginalisation through the private sector. It has elevated a ballooning and unproductive state sector of ‘bourgeois’ excess.
The descent to implosion started with the alienation of the vulnerable rural poor, sole traders, the unvaccinated, small business and economic sectors that could not adjust to lockdowns and the downstream consequences of dislocation. Then bewilderingly the whole rural sector was signalled as the primary target of climate change ideology that was more like an atheistic religious purge. This however was only ‘opium’ to the urban green economic activists in a Wellington bubble. Not content with this tirade of totalitarianism and messing with the means of production the Labour government drove the ‘out of control’ train of 3 waters, a dual racially divided health system and the continued and extending legislative requirements of ethnic consultation. Indigenous elites can increasingly demand influence and potentially equity before any progressive economic or environmental change can occur. This is effectively David Seymour’s ‘ethno state’ with elites’ power of veto and no provision for ‘trickle down’ to its own marginalised people. The structure is elitest and tribal. This is opposed in its very nature to ‘western’ democratically structured governance with potential equitable redistribution of wealth (i.e. Democratic socialism in action).
This Labour government have significantly eroded the NZ democracy and its sovereignty by caving into an apologist academic elite whose catch cry is to blame all society’s ills on the effects of post colonialism without acknowledging economic, social and political progression and benefits. The prevailing Treaty of Waitangi analysis is opportunistic as opposed to realistic.
Indeed, under this Labour Government the rich and propertied have prospered while by any measure the disadvantaged pains have dramatically increased. Buying a house for most socio-economic demographics is now an impossible dream. The egalitarian socialist democratic ideal has been replaced by a new totalitarianism where ethnic and economic elites prosper, the state sector is elevated in a new realm of ‘woke’ privilege and the disadvantaged now have no hope or aspiration to climb out of the mire of socio-economic depravity. Lawlessness is endemic, on the rise and set to remain, becoming the next government’s problem.
Government led inflation, the excesses of Covid response with ‘Quantitative Easing’/money printing and myopic immigration policy has further conflated the dilemma of a confused incoherent government. It sees no hope of re-election and impossible choices of back track especially in relation to co-governance or more accurately the acquiescence of power to an ‘ethno’ economic and political elite. Any balanced debate of ‘co-governance’ has been actively stifled through control of the messaging through mainstream media by NZ on AIR and the State Journalism fund to the point where mainstream media business models are no longer sustainable without government funding. Any alternative view or debate on the government led version of co-governance is ridiculously labelled as racism. Most New Zealanders under 30 and substantial other socio-demographic segments no longer trust the simplistic homogeneity of mainstream pro co-governance ‘propaganda’.
The people are not fooled and were never consulted in the 2020 election campaign on the radical policies to come. Consequently large, marginalised segments turned into an active fifth column which proceeded to personalise, taunt and harass the government and in particular the leader responsible. Mainstream media analysis is missing the point. The reaction of the people is an effect of the cause, a betrayal by state sponsored totalitarianism, and they have been marginalised in greater numbers than arguably any NZ constituency ever before. It was a battle of wills. Jacinda Ardern was faced with the impossibility of taking the blame and directing a recourse going against both ethnic and academic elites and still losing an acrimonious and unforgiving election. The PM raised the white flag choosing to leave the field of battle than capitulate in a spiteful and vicious public election campaign.
Now Chris Hipkins inherits the battle and the impossible plan without a compliant and grateful mandate, but still with the power of absolute government. Without political restraint and in the absence of strong and coherent leadership, unrestrained power has been a poisoned chalice for Labour. How Hipkins deals with the Maori caucus and co-governance not only in practice but through the power of the state will determine the fate of Labour and himself. A double down on existing policy will result in an acrimonious division of NZ society and electoral annihilation. The choices of restrained continuance or a ‘cup of tea’ with a modified agenda probably won’t be enough to win the election but it might prevent a 4-term government tenure of the centre right. Chris Hipkins is in an invidious position that requires a strength of resolve reminiscent of when Helen Clarke rejected the foreshore and seabed legislation that led to the Maori caucus split and the creation of the Maori party. Clarke’s strong leadership allowed Labour to retain its egalitarian identity and fight another day.
Chris Hipkins occupies centre stage and has only eight months to rationalise and control the Jacinda juggernaut. It appears the dangerous and impossible experiment is over and unwittingly, naturally market led Liberal Democracy is winning the battle, reverting it to a skirmish and hopefully avoiding a damaging and unwinnable social war.
The likelihood is Chris Hipkins will hang on uncomfortably until October 14, fighting fires. Hipkins will get burnt like Labour leaders before him. Being a boy from the Hutt with another ‘westie’ (no matter how diverse) for deputy will not save him, as Grant Robertson could probably predict. That story could be breaking news and will wait for another day. In the meantime, Robertson has carefully removed himself and the economic equation from the immediate reckoning leaving the new PM the poisoned chalice and nowhere to run.
The lasting legacy will hopefully be a nonapologetic restrengthening and re-correction of an effective, equitable and democratic policy framework based in proven Western Liberal Democratic traditions. An ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’ that might help working kiwis, the disadvantaged in equal measure and small business get through the imminent recession, believing a better future is to come. But for the near future that will be in the hands of Hipkins, Robertson and the dynamic of direct democratic power…hold on to your seats, it will be a wild ride!
Alistair Boyce is the owner of the iconic Wellington pub the Backbencher.